Georgetown Law Professor Sheryl Cashin, and her work, especially Localism, Self-interest, & the Tyranny of the Favored, introduced me to the problems of our local government systems and the fragmented metropolis. The article discusses the work of Richard Briffault and Kenneth Jackson’s Crabgrass Frontier.
I’ve been concerned about suburban sprawl since high school. I’m from a Western Pennsylvania farm town that was bulldozed into a Pittsburgh suburb as I grew up. I saw the destruction wrought by cars and traffic, in term of the lives of friends and favorite places. I read about the environmental damage and watched our country go to war for oil in 8th grade. I understood the policies that invested in this destructive development.
But it wasn’t until I moved to Washington, DC for law school and started learning from Professor Cashin that I understood the other side of the devastation coin – the communities left behind by sprawl. The places that weren’t getting the new highways and housing developments and strip malls and office complexes. The places that were no longer considered worthy of investment, by our governments and by our markets. Most importantly, I began to meet and listen to the people in those forgotten places. I was not only learning about, I was also living in a gentrifying neighborhood, the H Street area in Northeast DC, and working in a completely forgotten area, Anacostia.
I’ve been dedicated to working for those places and the people in those places ever since. But this blog is about looking at both sides of the devastation coin I mentioned before – the problems in the left-behind communities, but also the problems created by our car-centered development even for the favored quarter.
From its hilltop vantage point, Anacostia has the most beautiful views of our nation’s capital, but I would guess that most of the residents of Washington, DC have never seen them. Our racial segregation is hiding the beauty of these places and the people who live there from all us.
Professor Cashin has continued to research and write about these issues. She recently wrote a very thought-provoking book called Place, Not Race. In this excerpt from a CSPAN panel discussion, she explains why a multi-racial solution is necessary for a multi-racial problem.